In the supplement world products that reside in the “Weight Loss” aisle are perennial high-sellers but the frequent object of media scorn for their inflated claims and poor results.
They move off the shelves, but more because of our vulnerable psychology than their proven benefits. We want to impress the opposite sex now, but the length of time and exercise it takes to melt away your gobble neck feels like timing the growth of grass with a stopwatch.
So there we find ourselves, vegged out on our couch at 2AM, our protuberant guts oozing over our belt, talking on the phone with an Indian telemarketer about that $90 thigh machine that’s been marked down from $479 if you order in the next 20 minutes.
Hey, it’s probably a bad idea…….but what if it works?
That latter thought is the weight loss supplement industry in a nutshell.
The Supplement Industry: Is There a Way Forward?
Over the years there have been many products developed towards weight loss but few of them have worked because weight loss itself is hard to combat with a pill. It’s more of a system-wide thing than anything you can pinpoint directly with an ingredient or two.
Most of what’s out there are hacks that’ll jack up your heart rate and/or screw with your ability to absorb fatty nutrients if you take them too much. 1
If that’s the case, is there any hope for a legitimate weight loss product or is the bridge between desire and reality too far to gap?
In some ways the answer is no, there’s probably not any hope because the issue of obesity is broader than any supplement could tackle. However, there are some new ingredients on the horizon that could accurately be labeled as “metabolic enhancers” that have a modest effect on your body’s ability to process energy and melt an extra pound or three.
Omniactives recently came out with OmniLean, and Orgenetics has AimSlim, both of which are promising ingredients from companies that have carved out unique market positions for themselves. But for the time being the 900 lb Guerilla in the room is Meratrim, a patented blend of Indian Thistle and Mangosteen made by InterHealth Nutraceuticals. It’s the only weight loss ingredient that carries the gravitas of having valid research behind its marketing claims.
I was contacted about writing a review of the ingredient, and I giddily said yes since the chance to Guinea Pig myself is an exciting development for someone who uses nutrition textbooks for his bedtime reading.I’ve been testing it out for the last month or so and whaddya know…..it’s high time we had a blog post to reconcile what it’s all about.
What It Is
The most common weight loss ingredients are garcinia cambogia and raspberry ketones, but both of these are off the mark as far as weight loss goes. The chatter around raspberry ketones should evaporate in an exhalation of Dr. Oz’es hot air any year now, and garcinia cambogia does not have a great track record when it comes to keeping the pounds off.
However, Meratrim calls on two sparingly used herbs to pull its weight: Sphaeranthus indicus (Indian Thistle) and Garcinia mangostana. Both are lightly studied, but carry a long list of promising biological activities that allow them to alter your metabolism.
Truthfully, they’re inflammation suppressors moreso than genuine weight loss agents. Both reduce TNF-alpha and IL-8, two autoimmune proteins which wreak havoc on your gut and alter your ability to metabolize food. G. Mangostana also increases your body’s production of insulin 2, which allows it to help control blood sugar.
It’s these combination of effects that allow it to induce weight loss.
Front and center in Meratrim’s marketing claims is a clinical study published in The Journal of Medical Food in 2013 that reported shrinking waist lines and tighter tummies for the people who participated in it. Sometimes the papers companies flaunt in their marketing is little more than an open access PDF they paid to get distributed, but in this case the journal article crosses off all the important checkpoints you’d want to see:
- Reputable institution. The lead author comes from a reputable university, UC-Davis.
- Robust test conditions. It was a long trial with a fairly large sample size (100 volunteers, 8 weeks long).
- Strong controls. There was a control group, the participants were screened for appropriate criteria and randomized, and the study was double blind. 3
- Powerful results. The results themselves were promising. Weight, BMI, waistline, and various metabolic parameters were all significantly improved. Weight loss in particular was impressive with an average reduction of 10 lbs and a P value of less than 0.00001. 4
- Fast results. Participants began to see clinically significant results after two weeks. That’s great from a formulation standpoint, because no matter how much people preach the mantra of using hard work and diligence to achieve our goals……..we just want the magic to happen now.
- Safe. In the clinical trial there were no treatment related adverse events. This is important because customers fixated on weight loss don’t always get the highest marks for patience, so it’s helpful having an ingredient that won’t cause people to drop dead if they start using it to flavor their Gin and Tonics.
For the time being this is the highest standard that’s been set for a weight loss ingredient and makes it the most reputable option for a company looking to market a product with this health benefit.
From my point of view, the study they use to promote its health benefits is very sound and stands up very well on its own merits. However, what’s currently missing from InterHealth’s IP portfolio is a well-conducted absorption study. Some of the active ingredients in Meratrim are fat soluble, which means they’ll likely have a difficult time leaving the GI tract if not taken under the best conditions. A paper that compares the absorption of the Garcinia Mangostana and Sphaeranthus indicus in Meratrim compared to generic versions of the ingredients would go a long way towards cementing their place as the premium supplier of a novel weight loss ingredient and give themselves a competitive moat from other products in the space.
Before this review I’ve never tried a weight loss supplement.
Thankfully I’ve always been pretty thin and am able to resist the titillating before-and-after pictures you see when you click on a Facebook ad for diet shakes. So I was naturally curious about what sort of effect it’d have on me……both how I felt and whether or not I’d lose weight.
Here’s what I found:
- There were no discernible effects on my heart rate, concentration, etc. Ie, taking it didn’t put me in a manic frenzy.
- I noticed after two days I became less hungry. This was especially noticeable when I woke up in the morning. I usually workout at 6:30 AM, and afterwards have a hankering for something sweet that’ll cause me to gorge on sticky buns and red bean pastries at the chinese bakery I walk past on my way home if I let myself. On day 3 I noticed that I was unusually immune to these urges and that feeling persists to this day.
- I lost……..2 pounds. Probably an artifact and not that relevant since I’m not overweight to begin with, but these are the results that I got after taking 1 capsule a day for over three weeks:
I’m 186 pounds
Determine for yourself how relevant this is, but what’s definitely been noticeable is its gentle, non-invasive effect throughout the month.
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If you’re a product marketer most of your insurance rates go way up if you market towards weight loss because a lot of the ingredients are dangerous if used too much.↩
Insulin is the chemical that allows your body to remove sugar from the bloodstream↩
That means neither the patients or the researchers knew who was getting placebo or the real thing.↩
This represents the likelihood the results were due to chance.↩